Red Notices are electronic alerts transmitted over INTERPOL‘s secure communications network to the National Central Bureau (NCB) of each member country, seeking the location and arrest of wanted persons with a view to extradition or similar lawful action.
A Red Notice contains information concerning the wanted person, including name, date or birth, nationality and a photograph. It also includes a summarised description of the charge for which the person is ‘wanted’ and a description of the acts they are alleged to have committed. Each NCB will disseminate the notice to its domestic law enforcement agencies, such as the police and border officials, to take action against the wanted person in accordance with domestic law and procedure should he or she enter its jurisdiction. A small number of Red Notices are published on INTERPOL‘s ‘wanted persons’ page with the consent of the issuing country, but the vast majority of Red Notices remain confidential.
A Red Notice provides a means of streamlining co-operation between the 194 member countries of INTERPOL. It is not an “international arrest warrant”, and in many countries (including the UK) it does not, of itself, provide a lawful basis for an arrest. However, in some countries the existence of a Red Notice is sufficient to allow the police to carry out an arrest, which is then in turn subject to local procedure. Even in countries which do not consider the Red Notice to be a valid legal basis for arrest, border officers may have powers to hold a person under administrative immigration detention powers, during which time the requesting country can be notified of the person’s detention and a formal request made for a provisional arrest warrant under an applicable extradition treaty.
1. Contesting and deleting a Red Notice
An existing Red Notice may be removed and deleted by the Requests Chamber of INTERPOL‘s data processing body, the Commission for the Control of INTERPOL’s Files (“CCF”), conducting an ex post review. Alternatively, a Red Notice may be removed by way of an application to a National Central Bureau (“NCB”), the body responsible at the national level for administering INTERPOL matters, in either the member country that requested its circulation or the country of residence of the individual. The UK NCB is part of the National Crime Agency.
An anticipated Red Notice can be blocked by the CCF in advance of circulation.
The CCF considers legal petitions requesting the deletion of existing Red Notices as well as pre-emptive representations not to circulate an anticipated Red Notice. The most common ground of challenge is that dissemination of the Red Notice would infringe INTERPOL’s Constitution. For example:
- Article 3 which states that it is ‘strictly forbidden’ for INTERPOL to engage in any activities of a political, religious, military or racial character. INTERPOL has published a ‘Repository of Practice’, which explains how it interprets Article 3, and gives examples of the circumstances in which a Red Notice or a Diffusion might be viewed as political in character.
- Article 2 which obliges the organisation to act ‘within the spirit of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights’;
Fair Trials International has published information on how to deal with all the rules here.
The CCF also has Rules on the Processing of Data which include detailed provisions on Red Notices and Diffusions. If the Red Notice does not comply with the Rules then it should not be processed or disseminated by INTERPOL.
2. Procedure and timeframe for contesting a Red Notice
The CCF operates within the legal framework set out in its 2016 Statute, applicable legal standards, INTERPOL’s Constitution and operating rules.
Submitting a request
Any person or entity has the right to submit a request to the CCF for access to data processed in INTERPOL’s files and for correction and/or deletion of that data. The process is free and is done by way of an application form. Requests are confidential and are not recorded in INTERPOL’s files. The Chamber has exclusive power to decide on its competence to process requests submitted under the current Statute.
Following the submission of a request, by either the applicant or a duly authorised representative, the RC is required to acknowledge receipt at the earliest opportunity and is the only point of contact for the applicant throughout the process. A request should be examined by the Chamber at the earliest opportunity but not later than one month from receipt.
Admissibility of a request
The admissibility of requests is governed by Article 32 of the Statute and Rule 30 of the Operating Rules of the Commission. In order to qualify for admissibility, each request must meet the following conditions:
- the request must include an original letter sent by post and signed by the applicant, explaining the purpose of the request;
- it is written in one of the Organisation’s working languages (Arabic, English, French and Spanish);
- the request comes from the person whom it concerns, or from that person’s duly authorised representative;
- the request is accompanied by a copy of a readable and non-redacted identity document belonging to the applicant. Where the applicant is an entity, the full name, date of incorporation or registration, official registration number, and its official address are to be provided.
Further requirements to be complied with in the case of requests for deletion or correction or an application for revision (contesting a Red Notice) include:
- a precise but short summary of facts, not exceeding 10 pages, including an explanation of why the processing of data relating to the applicant violates INTERPOL’s rules;
- any relevant information and documentary evidence in support of the application (in particular, court decisions, decisions of other authorities, or arrest warrants);
- any information concerning the applicant that might be relevant when studying the case, such as his/her previous and current functions, pending legal actions, etc.
The RC cannot deal with requests that fail to comply with the above requirements. Requests which the RC considers to be either clearly unreasonable, for example, because of their repetitive or systemic nature, or outside of the competence of the RC, are also inadmissible. Decisions on admissibility are to be communicated and explained to the applicant at the earliest opportunity.
Dealing with a request
When a request is considered admissible, the first step is for the RC to determine whether data concerning the applicant is present on the INTERPOL Information System. Any such data found to be processed within the Information System will be assessed for compliance with INTERPOL’s rules. The assessment will usually begin by examining the arguments of the party as set out in their written application. The RC may contact the relevant source(s) of the data – usually the National Central Bureau of the country that circulated the data – for further information where necessary. Further information may also be sought from the applicant or any other entity. The degree of the checks undertaken by the RC in these cases will depend on the nature of the request and the data challenged.
While the RC primarily deals with requests on the basis of written submissions, hearings may be held when deemed necessary. Provisional measures may be put in place to restrict or suspend completely the circulation of the data while a request is under consideration.
Timeframe for processing requests
The RC must decide on a request for correction and/or deletion of data within nine months from the date on which the request was declared admissible. This is subject to the caveat that the circumstances of a particular request may require an extension. Any extension must be reasonable, communicated in a timely manner to both the applicant and the General Secretariat and must also be explained in the final decision. A written decision must be provided to the General Secretariat within one month from the date on which the decision was made, and the General Secretariat must implement such a decision within one month from the date on which it was received. A copy of the written decision will also be provided to the applicant and the source of the data, having regard to the confidentiality obligations within INTERPOL’s rules.
Where data has been corrected or deleted as a result of a decision made by the RC, the General Secretariat must notify Members, other than the source of the information, of the amendments. Decisions by the CCF, and consequently the RC, are binding on the Organisation. The decision of the RC is only subject to appeal or revision where new facts have come to light which could have let to a different decision being made. Any application for such a revision must be made within six months of the discovery of the fact.
Sessions of the CCF
The CCF holds formal meetings, known as Sessions, at least three times a year. The dates of the Sessions are published on INTERPOL’s website here. However, the RC can make decisions on provisional measures and the correction and/or deletion of data outside of its Sessions.
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